Slowing down does not come naturally to Lindsey Bennett. As someone who grew up moving around the world in a military family and who later came to love the rush of fast-paced workplaces, she acknowledges that she has trouble sitting still. So it makes sense that after taking four years off from her career to care for her two daughters, she recently got the itch to dive back into the workforce.
Bennett joined cloud-based finance company Kyriba as chief accounting officer last year. After several previous roles helping innovative enterprises in their efforts to scale up, her focus at San Diego–based Kyriba is on building a global accounting team, optimizing and automating crucial workflows, and getting her department up to speed with the rest of the rapidly growing company.
Bennett lived in a number of cities as a child but spent her formative years in Virginia. She loved mathematics, but when she told her dad she wanted to major in math, he wasn’t thrilled.
“My dad said it would be harder to get a job after college with a math degree, and instead I should go into business,” Bennett says. She listened and rapidly developed a passion for accounting. “I like to solve puzzles, and that’s how I view accounting. Everything has to work together; everything has a place.”
After Bennett graduated from James Madison University in 1999 with a degree in accounting information systems, she joined Ernst & Young in Virginia. When her sister moved out to San Diego, she decided to visit and fell in love with the beautiful city. She transferred to Ernst & Young’s San Diego office, where one of her big projects was a public offering on the Canadian market. Despite the long hours, the experience she gained working on this project was invaluable.
“I love to build things from scratch. Even though it’s challenging and the hours are tougher when you’re trying to grow a company quickly; building is what I truly am passionate about.”
During one late-night working session, she and her colleagues found themselves talking about favorite vacation spots, and she mentioned that she had always wanted to go to Australia. A manager in the room told her she should check out opportunities with the firm in New Zealand, but Bennett didn’t imagine the notion would live beyond the late-night work session chatter.
One thing led to another, and in 2004 Bennett transferred to Ernst & Young’s New Zealand office, where she gained more global experience for two years before heading back to San Diego.
Following Ernst & Young, Bennett joined biotech company Illumina at a time when the company was experiencing massive growth. Three years after that, she moved to cloud computing company ServiceNow, which hired her to help prepare the accounting team for its public offering. Bennett played an integral role in the company’s successful initial public offering (IPO) in June 2012.
“In retrospect, the ServiceNow IPO marked a major milestone in my career trajectory. Prior to that, my focus had been on mastering the day-to-day accounting realities of business,” Bennett explains. “Having the opportunity to engage in a major IPO and sit side by side with the underwriters, bankers, lawyers, and executives helped me gain additional insight into the rest of the business. It shifted my focus from the day-to-day realities to a more strategic view.”
“With rapidly growing companies, it is important to anticipate needs and scale appropriately to meet those needs in advance.”
And that’s the kind of work Bennett loves most—rapid, dramatic change with businesses she can help take to the next level. “I love to build things from scratch. Even though it’s challenging and the hours are tougher when you’re trying to grow a company quickly; building is what I truly am passionate about.”
Her love for fast-paced environments is also one reason why taking four years off after giving birth to her daughters was difficult for her. But she knew it was the best decision.
Once her first daughter was born, she realized she wouldn’t be able to provide the same level of commitment at work. While she struggled with putting her career on hold, she insisted on being there for those early years of her children’s lives. As Bennett states, “Family is everything.”
However, once her kids were in preschool, Bennett was ready to start something new. In August 2019, she joined Kyriba, where her focus has been on building the accounting team to accommodate the company’s inevitable growth.
But the task is more complicated than simply hiring more people; more than 50 percent of Kyriba’s workforce is located overseas, as the company was originally founded in France. One of her primary initiatives is to truly globalize the company and make those teams work more cohesively. She does that by understanding how various teams work across multiple locations and creating efficient and effective processes to generate economies of scale.
“I like to solve puzzles, and that’s how I view accounting. Everything has to work together; everything has a place.”
In addition, Bennett continuously focuses on improving communication among her colleagues, even if it’s as simple as recurring in-person or videoconferencing meetings. “Providing the opportunity for employees to travel adds a whole new layer of depth to a working relationship,” she says.
Another main project she will be focused on in the near future is automation. Kyriba plans to implement a new accounting system to further augment the use of Kyriba’s SaaS solution.
For all the high-stakes projects she’s been a part of in her past, Bennett has learned that “with rapidly growing companies, it is important to anticipate needs and scale appropriately to meet those needs in advance.”
It is no surprise that Bennett looks to hire efficient and driven workers who embrace change. “Equally as important as building the right team,” she says, “is understanding what motivates each person and inspiring them towork toward a common goal, creating processes and automation to help prepare the company for the next stage in its life cycle.”